Ethics is Contagious

© 2014 Leading in Context LLCBy Linda Fisher Thornton

I must admit that I can’t take the credit for coming up with the catchy title of this post. A group of attendees at a recent keynote I delivered came up with it as a way to describe what they had learned. And it makes perfect sense.

Ethics is catching, and leaders set the tone for the ethics of the organization. What would happen if everyone in the organization followed our lead? Would the organization be more or less ethical?  What kind of ethics are people catching as they work in our organization?

10 Reasons Why Ethics is Contagious:

  1.  We are social creatures.
  2.  People tend to “follow the leader.”
  3.  If their leader is unethical, people may be less likely to report ethical problems.
  4.  In unethical cultures, people who speak up may be punished, which further entrenches the unethical culture.
  5.  When people fail to report ethical problems, the problems may increase and become standard practice.
  6.  In unethical cultures, people who do unethical things may be promoted or rewarded in other ways.
  7.  If their leader is ethical, people may be more likely to report ethical problems.
  8.  In a positive ethical culture, people who speak up may be rewarded, which further entrenches the ethical culture.
  9.  The choices we repeat and reward become the patterns of acceptable behavior in our culture. 
  10.  Whichever case of ethics is spreading in our organizations gains momentum over time. In unethical cultures, the momentum is toward compromising ethics. In ethical cultures, the momentum is toward acting based on ethical values.

Which direction are we leading the organization? Organizational ethics can easily can go either way. Since ethics is so contagious, we need to be sure that we help people catch a positive case of it.

 Linda Fisher Thornton is an author, speaker, consultant and adjunct faculty member who helps  organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™. Her new book is 7 Lenses.
 
 

 

Well-Being is Trending

Well-BeingBy Linda Fisher Thornton

Have you noticed that well-being is trending? It’s not enough just to provide fair pay and good work conditions any more. People want to participate in something meaningful and work in high-trust cultures where they can flourish. They seek out companies that care about their well-being.

Making Life Better

Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte predicts in his article The Year of the Employee: Predictions For Talent, Leadership and HR Technology In 2014 that we will need to “re-imagine employee engagement in a new, integrated way” and seek to create “rewarding, exciting and empowering” experiences.

Our workplace focus is moving toward promoting general well-being.

We are beginning to focus on the wellness and happiness of the whole person, and are more aware of the importance of measures of success that incorporate overall well-being. Gallup.com has a Well-Being Index that shows trending levels of well-being over time. OECD publishes an annual “How’s Life?” Report that goes beyond financial measures to evaluate social well-being and progress. The Happy Planet Index  rates each country in the world on aspects needed for people to live long and happy lives.

Well-being is on the minds of consumers as well. Trendwatching.com comments in Internet of  Caring Things that consumers will “lavish love and attention on products, services and experiences” that actively care for their well-being and the well-being of their loved ones.

The Ethics Factor

Positive, intentional management of ethics in organizations supports the overall well-being of employees, customers and communities. Ethics also gives organizational metrics a boost. When we treat people well, we bring out their best.

Ethical leaders support the well-being of those they lead and serve.

Happy people who trust their ethical leaders tend to be more engaged, more creative and more productive. 

Paying attention to well-being makes sense.

In this case what’s good for employee well-being is good for the well-being of the organization too. 

Linda Fisher Thornton is an author, speaker, consultant and adjunct faculty member who helps organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership™. Her new book is 7 Lenses.

 

Making Decisions Like Global Citizens

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Character is important, but leading ethically in the fullest sense requires much more than just demonstrating good character. In this 2 minute video, I describe 7 different perspectives that you may hear around the table as you discuss ethical dilemmas in your organization. Instead of being competing perspectives, each one is an important element of the full picture of what it means to lead ethically in a global society.

As you watch, see how many of these 7 different perspectives you can recognize in your organization’s dialogue about ethics.

·

About Linda Fisher Thornton         

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™  Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a clear framework for proactive ethical leadership (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).  

Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt @7Lenses

How Current is My Message About Ethics?

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Ethical expectations are continually increasing, and it is not always easy for leaders to keep up with the changes. This week, I’m sharing an assessment to help you answer the question “How current is my message about ethics?” 

We convey our beliefs about ethical responsibility through leadership development, ethics training, regular communications and daily actions.  The message we send sets the tone for the ethics of our organizations.

This assessment is based on the holistic 7 Lenses™ framework described in my book 7 Lenses. It will help you identify strengths and areas for improvement in your ethics message. Notice that the assessment is organized into 7 different perspectives on ethical responsibility. Each of these 7 Lenses™ is an important part of leading ethically in a global society, from profiting responsibly to contributing to the greater good of society. 

See how many of the 21 items below are already incorporated into your message about ethics, and check those off. After completing the assessment, add any items you didn’t check off to your list of goals for this year. 

What is My Message About Ethical Responsibility?

Lens 1: Profit

___ I describe profit as the result of doing business ethically and creating shared value.

___ I talk about ethics just about as often as I talk about profits to be sure that people know that it is just as important.

___ I lead open conversations about how to balance ethics and profits, because I know that at times they will seem to conflict.

Lens 2: Law

___ I make it clear that laws are the minimum standards in society, not the expected levels of behavior. 

___ I let leaders know that we need to aim higher than laws and regulations, to the ethical values behind those laws.

___ I talk openly about how we’ll handle situations where something is legal, but may harm our constituents and is therefore unethical.

Lens 3: Character

___ I go well beyond telling people to “do the right thing” and give them details about what that means in our organization.

___ I demonstrate ethical competence and expect it from every leader in the organization.

___  I make moral awareness an important part of leader education.

Lens 4: People 

___ I don’t tolerate negative interpersonal behaviors (like teasing, blaming and belittling).

___ I ask leaders to demonstrate respect for every person, regardless of differences. 

___ I expect leaders to honor the rights and dignity of each person, and they understand what that looks like (and doesn’t  look like) in action.

Lens 5: Communities

___ I make it clear to leaders that community service and involvement are key values in our organization.

___ I offer opportunities for leaders to be actively involved in efforts to support community programs. 

___ Our message is that supporting healthy, thriving communities helps everyone, including us. 

Lens 6:  Planet

___ I make sure that leaders know that in our organization sustainability is more than a pamphlet or a report, it is the way we work every day.

___ I let leaders know that life, nature and ecosystems are silent stakeholders that we must protect.

___ Our message is consistent – actions about sustainability and protecting the planet match our words.

Lens 7: Greater Good

___ Leaders know that our organization believes in creating a better world for all.

 ___ When making decisions, I ask people to think farther ahead than 1-5 years, to consider the long-term impact of their choices 100 years or more into the future.

___ I help leaders balance short-term gains with long-term responsibilities when they make decisions.

How current is your message about ethics?

About Linda Fisher Thornton          

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton  helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™ Linda’s book 7 Lenses (with a foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey) provides a clear multi-dimensional framework for leading ethically in a complex world. Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt  @7Lenses 

 
“Each lens is part of ethical leadership, and when any one is ignored, we fail to lead ethically in its fullest interpretation.”
Linda Fisher Thornton, in 7 Lenses

7 Lenses (via Leadership Excellence Essentials)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

I am honored that my article “7 Lenses: Principles and Practices” was included on page 34 in the January issue of Leadership Excellence Essentials that features tributes to Mandela.  This issue also includes articles by Warren Bennis, Dave Ulrich, Tom Peters and many others talking about leadership, strategy and engagement. 

LE_JAN2014_Page_01

Download View New Interactive PDF

This issue of Leadership Excellence Essentials is is shared with you with the permission of the publisher, hr.com.

7 Lenses Book

About Linda Fisher Thornton        

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Linda’s book 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership provides a 

clear framework for leading ethically in a complex world (foreword by Stephen M. R. Covey).  As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations Unleash the Positive Power of Ethical Leadership.™

Linda@LeadinginContext.com @leadingincontxt @7Lenses

5 Ways CEOs Can Build an Ethical Culture

Leading in Context BlogBy Linda Fisher Thornton

CEOs are in a unique position to make ethics a priority through their everyday actions, but simply modeling ethics isn’t nearly enough. Here is a starting list of 5 actions CEOs can take that move organizations toward an ethical culture, besides telling people how important ethics is and demonstrating it in everyday behavior and choices.

5 Ways CEOs Can Build an Ethical Culture

1. Expect respectful, ethical behavior, and quickly correct behavior that doesn’t measure up

2. Make it safe for people to talk about the ethical grey areas they encounter in their work 

3. Talk about the organization’s values, ethics expectations and industry ethics codes 

4.  Give people the opportunity to practice making good ethical decisions

5. Talk openly about the ethical decisions you are making, and why they are so important

Why is proactively making ethics a priority so critical? CEOs protect the character of their organizations. They set the example that others follow.  They have the responsibility for creating a ripple of ethical behavior, choices, and conversations throughout their organizations.

Forward-thinking CEOs embrace this responsibility to protect the character of the organizations. When they talk openly about their own efforts to make ethical decisions, they also magnify that learning on an organizational scale.

7 Lenses Book

About Linda Fisher Thornton

As CEO of Leading in Context, Linda Fisher Thornton helps forward-thinking leaders and organizations bring out their best by developing ethical leaders and aligning ethical leadership performance systems. In 2013, Linda was named one of the Global Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America. Her new book is 7 Lenses: Learning the Principles and Practices of Ethical Leadership.

Leading in Context is a leader in providing clear tools for businesses of all sizes for implementing “ethical leadership future.”   For more information, see the LeadinginContext Manifesto, a statement of belief about ethical leadership that is behind a movement toward bringing out the best in people, organizations and communities. www.LeadinginContext.com

Leading the Conversation About Ethical Leadership

Leading the Conversation

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Dialogue is a powerful tool for developing ethical organizations. Workplace issues are complex and opinions vary about what ethical leadership means. This combination creates a kind of “murky uncertainty” that keeps leaders from giving us their best, most ethical performance.

To move beyond this “murky uncertainty,” we need to take the time to talk about what ethical behavior means. Use the twelve questions in the discussion guide below to start building a shared understanding of your organization’s definition of ethical leadership behavior.

LEADING THE CONVERSATION IN OUR ORGANIZATIONS

Here are some questions that may help you define ethical issues and appropriate leader behaviors in the context of your organizational values:

  • What are the specific ethical behaviors that are required of all organizational leaders?
  • What are the consequences if they don’t behave ethically?
  • What are the situations that people encounter that could lead them into a grey area?
  • How should those grey areas be handled?
  • What does it look like when leaders perform according to the organization’s stated values?
  • What does it look like when they don’t?
  • How should people make decisions when they encounter difficult situations?
  • Where might our leaders fall into grey areas while implementing our goals and values?
  • What are areas where we will not tolerate compromise?
  • What are areas of flexibility?
  • Where do we need to clarify our mission and values, to make it clear that we are an ethical organization, and ethics is not negotiable?
  • How can we more effectively recruit, recognize, and retain ethical leaders?

Linda Fisher Thornton, “Leadership Ethics Training: Why is it So Hard to Get it Right?”  reprinted in Training and Development: The Best of Leadership Development, American Society for Training and Development. (March, 2010)

Without a clear picture of what ethical behavior means in our organizations, we’re unlikely to achieve it.  While the conversation may take some time, it will take less time than dealing with the problems that happen when leaders work in “murky uncertainty.”

Let’s get the conversation started.

Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO of Leading in Context LLC, a leadership development consulting firm. Linda was named one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.

How to Use the Leading in Context® Website

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

Building an Ethical Leadership Culture (Webcast)

By Linda Fisher Thornton

How Does Ethical Leadership Impact “Brand?”

Our “brand” is determined in part by our ethical leadership choices. These connected trends increase what is expected of us, and make it important for us to manage ethical leadership carefully:

  • In a socially connected world, our leadership is more visible
  • Citizen journalism means that everyone has a voice (and may speak out about their experience with our brand)
  • Employees are seeking out ethical organizations and agencies where they can do their best work
  • Organizations and agencies are judged based on the ethics of the entire supply chain
  • There is a higher expectation for ethical behavior and more pressure on leaders to lead responsibly

How Can We Develop Ethical Leaders Who Will Build an Ethical Brand? 

I was recently invited to co-present an ASTD Public Manager Webcast “Developing Ethical Leaders and an Ethical Government Brand” with John Umana.  While the Webcast which aired on March 19, 2013 was customized for government HR and Training leaders, the content is applicable across industries. ASTD has now posted the recorded webcast and made it available to the public.

The Webcast includes:

2013Webcast

  • Three very different perspectives on ethical leadership
  • Specific strategies for developing ethical leaders and an ethical brand
  • Managing ethical leadership as a performance system rather than a program
  • Understanding many connected aspects of building an ethical culture

Viewing the Webcast

This Webcast will help C-Suite leaders and HR/Training professionals discover the answers to these questions:

  1. What exactly is ethical leadership?
  2. How does an organization’s ethical leadership impact its brand?
  3. How is moral development related to ethical leadership?
  4. How should ethical leadership training be connected to the performance management system?
  5. What can we do to build an ethical culture?

To learn more about developing ethical leaders, see the complete ASTD Webcast Developing Ethical Leader and an Ethical Government Brand at http://www.webvent.tv/webinar/572.

Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO of Leading in Context LLC, a leadership development consulting firm helping business leaders lead responsibly in a complex world.  Linda was recently named one of the 2013 Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business Behavior by Trust Across America.

How to Use the Leading in Context® Website

© 2013 Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

10 Thinking Traps (That Ethical Leaders Avoid)

Avoid These 10 Thinking Traps

What are some of the thinking traps that we fall into as leaders? I’m not referring to “correlation versus causation” and other logical reasoning problems. There are some common ways of thinking about business leadership that cripple our effectiveness and undermine our ethics. These misconceptions should have important names that reflect the wide swath of negative impact that they cause in organizations.

Here are 10 types of flawed leadership thinking that I have seen, with my own tongue-in-cheek descriptive names for them…

The message? Ethical leaders avoid these 10 types of flawed thinking.

Which one of these is your favorite? My favorite is #10.

Linda Fisher Thornton is Adjunct Assistant Professor of Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies. She is also CEO/Owner of Leading in Context LLC, a leadership development consulting firm helping business leaders lead responsibly in a complex world.  

Current Leading in Context® Publications:

Testimonials - Learn about the Leading in Context difference from satisfied customers, readers and fans!

How to Use the Leading in Context® Website

© 2012, Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

Twitter Helps Leaders “Think Global”

by Linda Fisher Thornton

At one point in the process of learning new social media channels, I actually said that I would never go on Twitter (In case you missed the post with that story, it was “Leaders and Social Media: 5 Reasons to Engage”).  I’ve learned quite a few things since the day I started on Twitter – April Fool’s Day 2010 – and I want to share what I have discovered about the learning impact of Twitter.

Twitter helps us learn to “think global” in a connected global society. It can transform us, the way we think, and the way we do business. It keeps us current, connects us with a global network of information and provides real-time data. In this post, I’ve sprinkled in some statistics along with my own observations about the learning benefits of Twitter.

Twitter Keeps us Current

  • Twitter helps us realize that social media is a vibrant and essential element of business communication, and it helps us get into the conversation.
  • Twitter connects us to people who are passionate about the same things we are passionate about, and to people who think differently from the way we think, and we can learn from each other.
  • Twitter is a powerful tool for learning about new and emerging issues and research. Many people post drafts of their work to get feedback from followers, and reach out to each other to share information.
  • Twitter helps us “think global” and learn about other countries. In the course of a week, we might connect with people on Twitter from dozens of countries, and we may need to use Google Translate to find out what they’re saying to us. What a way to build a global mindset!

 Twitter Enables Today’s Social Business

  • Twitter helps us connect with our readers, customers, colleagues, and partners. Today’s customer wants to engage with businesses on social media, and being there helps our business connect, survive and thrive.
  • Twitter helps us find out what people need that we may be able to provide.
  • Twitter helps us build credibility. When we connect, we have the opportunity to articulate our mission, and to inform others about how we can solve their problems with our services.
  • Twitter keeps us from becoming insulated. Engaging in dialogue on Twitter keeps us connected and aware.

Twitter Gives Us Real-Time Data 

With around 2,200 new tweets per second (whitefireseo.com), aggregating words mentioned in tweets provide unusually interesting information that can be updated continually. For example, take a look at the article Track Disease Trends on Twitter With Mappy Health by Mary C. Long.

Statistics to Tweet About

81% of respondents believe that CEOs who engage in social media are better equipped than their peers to lead companies in a web 2.0 world.

82% of respondents were more likely or much more likely to trust a company whose CEO and leadership team engage with social media.

78% of respondents would prefer to work for a company whose leadership is active on social media.

Brandfog.com, 2012 CEO, Social Media and Leadership Survey

Internally, CEOs who are engaged on social media are able to break down counterproductive silos and facilitate greater communication and collaboration with the company.

Douglas Burdett, How Social Media Engagement Can Help B2B CEOs, business2community.com

Stages of Learning Twitter

These articles explain the stages of learning Twitter:

As we connect socially on Twitter, we naturally begin to expand our network globally. We begin to realize that the world is one community, and we begin to “think global.”

About the Author Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO/Owner of Leading in Context, a consulting firm that also publishes leadership development modules, graphics, case studies, discussion guides and videos. Her mission is to clarify what it means to lead ethically in a complex world. Visit LeadinginContext.com/About for more information about Linda, her background and her mission. Linda is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor teaching Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

A Guide to Finding What You Need: How to Use the Leading in Context® Website

Current Leading in Context® Publications:

“Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different’”  Training Module
“Ethical Interpersonal Behavior”  Graphic
“The Evolving Leadership Context: Respectful Workplaces”  Video
Testimonials - Learn about the Leading in Context difference from satisfied customers, readers and fans!

10 Ways to Avoid the “Rightness” Trap

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Author’s Note:  This post was written based on the collective responses to last week’s post.

10 Ways to Avoid the “Rightness” Trap

There were quite a few responses to last week’s post. The question Is Needing to Be “Right” Unethical? seemed to strike a chord with readers. These are just 10 of the themes raised by readers in their comment.  Collectively, these themes represent 10 ways to avoid falling into the “rightness” trap.

  1. An abundance philosophy - it helps us listen to others without needing to argue our points forcefully. It makes us more likely to seek a win-win solution. A scarcity mentality tends to cause us to see a disagreement as a win-lose situation, where we have to win.
  2. A  learner approach  – it helps us see that other people have good points too. A judger approach is more likely to cause us to see what is wrong with what the other person is saying.
  3. Awareness of our ego – it helps us realize that even though we get some satisfaction from being “right,” that does not mean that we should indulge our need to be right.
  4. Awareness of our mindset - thinking about how we developed our mindset, and the limitations and flaws in that mindset can help us step back when we think we need to be right.
  5. Our curiosity - using it helps us be open to listening to what people are saying from all perspectives.
  6. Our humility - it helps us be willing to admit when we are wrong (or when someone else’s idea is better).
  7. Our respect for others – this helps us remember that our need to be right shouldn’t cause us to treat others in a disrespectful way.
  8. Awareness that “reality” and “truth” are perceived differently – since people define these concepts in many different ways, our curiosity helps us explore how other people define them.
  9. Our good communication skills - they help us express ourselves calmly and respectfully.
  10. Our respect for differences - it helps us remember that other people have opinions, that their opinions will not  always match ours, and that we do not need to perceive these differences as a threat.

Thank you to the many people who commented. Your comments helped shape the discussion in ways that help us all learn. Feel free to suggest additions to this list!

About The Author: Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO/Owner of Leading in Context, a leadership development firm providing leadership consulting and learning publications that address complex ethical issues.

Current Leading in Context® Publications:

“Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different’”  Training Module
“Ethical Interpersonal Behavior”  Graphic
“The Evolving Leadership Context: Respectful Workplaces”  Video
Testimonials - Learn about the Leading in Context difference from satisfied customers, readers and fans!

Don’t Separate “Ethics” From “Leadership”

By Linda Fisher Thornton

Preparing Leaders For Ethical Leadership

Preparing leaders for ethical leadership is a long-term process.  It requires careful thought about the messages we are sending. For example, what message are we sending when we separate ethics training from other leadership training?

The Risks of “Separate” Ethics Training

I believe that we take an unnecessary risk when we separate ethics training from the rest of a leader’s development. When we separate ethics training and leadership training, we may be unintentionally sending the message that ethics is separate from leadership. What could be the harm of separating ethics from leadership?

The Impact on the Leader’s Mindset

If we separate “ethics” from “leadership” as leaders are learning, they could develop the mindset that ethics is compartmentalized and that ethical decisions are different from other decisions.

Leaders who receive separate ethics training that is not an integral component in the rest of their leadership development may think of it as they would think about a vaccination, to be tolerated once in a while, but not something that should govern their thinking, choices and behavior every day.

Leaving Leaders to Fill in the Blanks

When ethics and leadership are not integrated during the learning process, leaders may have difficulty integrating ethics and leadership themselves in day-to-day practice.

Strong Leadership Without Ethics

One of the most worrisome possibilities of teaching ethics separately from leadership is this:

If we continue to teach leadership without its governing ethics and values built in, we could unintentionally be teaching people to use strong leadership that is outside of the boundaries of ethical behavior.

About The Author: Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO/Owner of Leading in Context, a leadership development firm providing leadership consulting and learning publications that address complex ethical issues.

Current Leading in Context® Publications:

“Ethical Implications of How Leaders Perceive ‘Different’”  Training Module
“Ethical Interpersonal Behavior”  Graphic
“The Evolving Leadership Context: Respectful Workplaces”  Video
 
© 2012, Leading in Context LLC. All rights reserved.

The Leadership Development Advantage

by Linda Fisher Thornton

Developing Leaders Pays Off

Ongoing development for leaders helps companies. According to several recent reports, businesses that invest in leadership development enjoy clear advantages. These advantages include improved bench strength, improved talent retention and greater market value over time.

Here is a list of some of the financial and non-financial advantages of investing in leadership development, and the white papers that document them. As you read, consider how improving leadership improves the entire organization in ways that benefit companies, leaders, customers, employees, and communities.

Advantages of Investing in Leadership Development

  • Improved business growth
  • Improved bench strength
  • Improved employee retention
  • Improved bottom-line performance
  • Improved ability to attract talent
  • Solving problems earlier and at lower levels
  • Increased organizational agility
  • Improved business sustainability
  • Greater market value over time

Reports Documenting the Benefits of Leadership Development

Bersin & Associates found that businesses that invest in leadership development enjoy improved business growth, bench strength and employee retention. (New Bersin & Associates Research Shows that Organizations with High-Impact Leadership Development Strategies Build a Different Breed of Leader and Generate Seven Times Greater Business Impact, online at Bersin.com).

JP Dolan wrote in 40 Best Companies for Leadership Development: How Top Companies Excel in Leadership Development that companies that excel in leadership development generate dramatically greater market value over time (online at ChiefExecutive.net).

The Center for Creative Leadership report Driving Performance: Why Leadership Development Matters in Difficult Times (online at ccl.org) says that leadership development during difficult economic times helps companies emerge stronger than the competition, improves bottom-line financial performance, improves ability to attract and retain talent and increases organizational agility.

The Career Management Consultants in “Enhancing Leadership Capability” (nwacademy.nhs.uk) reported that The Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp) “found that high performing organisations are five times as effective at leadership development than low performing organisations and 86 per cent of respondents cited leadership development as a critical business issue” (The Best Get Better: Critical Human Capital Issues of 2012, i4cp, April 2012). The report also noted that “leadership capability has a direct impact on bottom line results and business sustainability.”

The Growthwave White Paper “Unleash Leadership Talent – Increase Business Performance (online at growthwave.com) reports that “Companies that focus on developing leadership abilities deep into the organization are able to identify and solve problems earlier and at lower levels. This allows higher-level leaders to not get distracted by the details at the expense of strategic performance. Unleashing leadership potential deep in the organization creates capacity to significantly increase business performance.”

Questions for Reflection

1. How well does our leadership development prepare leaders for successful leadership in our organization?

2. What problems are we experiencing that improving leadership competence would help resolve?

3. What are we going to do about it?

About the Author Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO/Owner of Leading in Context, a consulting firm that also publishes leadership development materials. Her mission is to clarify what it means to lead ethically in a complex world. Visit LeadinginContext.com/About for more information about Linda, her background and her mission. Linda is also an Adjunct Assistant Professor teaching Leadership for the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies.

2011 Most Ethical Companies

Which Companies are the World’s Most Ethical?

Which companies stand out as the world’s most ethical? The answer to that question depends on who you ask! Three reports posted at Ethisphere.com, MillwardBrown.com and Forbes.com reveal their perspectives and rankings.

Rankings By Industry, Country and Ethical Leadership

Ethisphere’s World’s Most Ethical Companies 2011 at Ethisphere.com organizes the most ethical companies by industry and country.

The Forbes Top Brands Report at Forbes.com lets us choose how to see the rankings by clicking the term at the top of the table. You may choose to rank based on Trust, Ethical Leadership, Innovation, Revenue, Advertising Spending or Industry.  It is very interesting to see the names change when you compare the revenue rankings to the ethical leadership rankings.

Ethics Impacts Brand Value

The report “Brandz™ Top 100: Most Valuable Global Brands 2011″  at MillwardBrown.com includes interesting information about consumer trends and how ethical behavior impacts a company’s brand value.

Customers Increasingly Evaluate Based on Ethics

Customers shop globally now, and when they buy, they compare products more and more often based upon ethics. In addition to shopping cautiously during the recession when money is tight, there is also a trend toward thinking about how each purchase impacts the local community, the global community and the planet.

“The new ethos frowned on flaunting and encouraged awareness of how one’s purchases, whether diamonds from African mines or apparel stitched in Asian factories, impacted the environment and people all along the supply chain.”  “Brandz™ Top 100: Most Valuable Global Brands 2011″  MillwardBrown.com

Ethical Businesses Benefit From the New Ways Consumers Shop

I like the term “considered consumption” that Millward Brown uses to describe the change in consumer behavior.

Frugality eased last year, but consumers didn’t spend frivolously, suggesting that brands will continue to feel the impact of the recession-accelerated shift to considered – rather than conspicuous – consumption.  “Brandz™ Top 100: Most Valuable Global Brands 2011″  MillwardBrown.com

The Millward Brown report reminded me about these aspects of consumer behavior, which are also reasons why ethics matters in brand value:

  • Customers are thinking more before buying
  • They are considering more variables
  • They are making responsible consumption a priority
  • They value trust
  • They expect ethical behavior
  • They place their “vote” by purchasing from ethical companies
  • Word gets around when companies are responsible and offer a great value
Questions for Discussion
Clearly, customers are thinking more ethically and more globally when considering their buying options. We need to be prepared as business leaders, and we should know the answers to these questions:
1. How well is our business positioned to respond to the new ways customers shop?
2. How ethical is our brand?
3. What are we doing that we know could be handled more responsibly?
4. How can we improve our ethics in ways that will appeal to our customers, employees and partners?
5. How will we make leading responsibly in these areas of our business a top priority company-wide?

About the Author Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO/Owner of Leading in Context, a leadership development firm publishing learning tools that clarify what it means to lead ethically in a complex world. Her most recent publication is a Leading in Context™ Video called “The Evolving Leadership Context: Respectful Workplaces” which can be downloaded at LeadinginContext.com/Store.

How Can Leading in Context® Publications Help Our Business?

You are invited to access the full benefits that Leading in Context provides to customers and subscribers:

Ways That Leading in Context® Publications Meet Our Needs #5:  “We need to talk about how to build an ethical culture.”

Thinking Beyond Disciplines: Why We Need it

What is Transdisciplinarity?

The Institute for the Future and the University of Phoenix Research Institute list transdisciplinarity as #7 in a list of skills critical for Workforce 2020. They define it as “understanding concepts across multiple disciplines.”

Why is it Important?

Why is it increasingly important to understand concepts across multiple disciplines?

  • The problems we are trying to solve are increasingly complex.
  • The view from within any one discipline can be too narrow to provide a clear solution to a complex problem
  • Looking beyond the boundaries of knowledge that define a discipline can help us solve problems and understand complex information in a new way, using a broader view.

Transdisciplinarity connotes a research strategy that crosses many disciplinary boundaries to create a holistic approach.

Transdisciplinarity at Wikipedia.org

How Does Thinking More Broadly Help Us Lead Responsibly?

Broadening our thinking is particularly helpful in understanding concepts like “ethical leadership” which involves leading within multiple interrelated systems and meeting the needs of multiple constituents responsibly.

Sometimes looking at a problem from a single perspective may cause us to overlook important systems that are not completely within the scope of that one perspective.

Systems don’t stop where the boundaries of a discipline stop. That means that we need to broaden our view to avoid missing important pieces of the problem we’re trying to solve or the responsibility we’re trying to fulfill.

Looking at the research and information across disciplines helps us understand complex, connected systems and problems in a broader context. That broader level of thinking is the level that we’ll need to use to solve today’s complex, connected problems.

Transdisciplinarity and Ethics

Transdisciplinary ethics seeks to describe ethics in ways that transcend any particular discipline or profession.

 “Transdisciplinary Studies are an area of research and education that addresses contemporary issues that cannot be solved by one or even a few points-of-view. It brings together academic experts, field practitioners, community members, research scientists, political leaders, and business owners among others to solve some of the pressing problems facing the world, from the local to the global.”

“The values embedded in the transdisciplinary vision are basic: sharing, respect, and resolve.” “It is a distinctly postmodern point-of-view, calling on women and men, on “transdisciplinary-minded persons of all countries” to join in bringing this vision into reality, into “everyday life.” It is a bold vision; some might even say an impossible one, filled with a zeal for justice, equality, inclusion, and true democratic decision-making.”

Transdisciplinary Studies, Wikipedia.com

“As the prefix trans indicates, transdisciplinarity concerns that which is at once between the disciplines, across different disciplines, and beyond all discipline.” – Basarab Nicolecsu, 2002 quoted by the Woodbury Institute of Transdiciplinary Studies

When solving difficult problems, consider looking across disciplines for clues. Stepping back far enough to look across disciplines may lead you to an elegant solution.

Learn More

These articles discuss the broad values and value of interdisciplinary research, thinking and ethics.

Overview of Transdisciplinarity as Methodology McGregor Consulting Group

Unity of Knowledge From Transdisciplinary Research on Sustainability by G. Hirsch Hadorn

From Inter-Disciplinary Ethics to Trans-Disciplinary Ethics  NCBI, Pubmed.gov

Linda Fisher Thornton is CEO/Owner of Leading in Context. She can be reached at Linda@LeadinginContext.com.

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Ways That Leading in Context® Publications Meet Your Needs #4:

“We need compelling materials that help us lead in complex times.”

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